08 October 2004

St Bernards on the way out

According to Reuters, St Bernard rescue dogs are on the way out.

Switzerland's St Bernard rescue dogs, known for centuries for saving avalanche victims from snowy Alpine graves, are to be sold by their monk owners as helicopters and heat sensors take over their work.
Photo
Reuters Photo



At St. Bernard's hospice, cradle of the breed, Augustinian monks want to devote more time to needy people and less to the 18 dogs -- which will be sold only to new owners who promise to bring them back each year.

"They (the dogs) need a lot of time and energy. There are only four of us monks now," said Brother Frederic, perched on a rock with a St Bernard by his side.

The dogs, which eat up to four and a half pounds of meat a day, have not rescued anyone for 50 years.

The dogs' history is entwined with that of the pass, where the Romans first built a temple to Jupiter as they marched north to conquer Europe, and where Charlemagne, Hannibal and Napoleon all left footprints in the snow.

St Bernard himself built a hospice on the spot in the 11th century, and a community of monks formed to aid travelers and rescue avalanche victims.

But with the progress of modern mountain rescue technology, the dogs have been pushed out of their traditional role in the mountains of Switzerland.
(via Monkeyfilter)



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